Tuesday, August 27, 2013

So You Wrote a Novel...Now What?

“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
Andy Warhol

Writers enjoy analogies and different ones have been used to describe the feeling that we get after our novel has gone out into the world. Depending on who you ask, it's like giving birth, running a marathon or climbing a mountain. However you describe it, there is a sense of accomplishment that is gratifying and frustrating at the same time. Once the book is out the door and your bank account is (hopefully) being flooded with royalties, what should you do next? I have a few ideas on both what to do and what not to do in the afterglow of your literary orgasm. These ideas are not in any order of importance. They’re just something to consider when taking your next step.

Things to Do After Your Novel is Released
  • Keep supporting the book with post launch marketing (See Marketing the Independent Novel)
  • Get yourself a vacation, a drink, a massage or some other indulgence to celebrate your achievement. Despite what self-publishing pessimists say, not everyone can write a book.
  • Thank the people who helped you. Despite the name, self-publishing isn't something that most people can do alone.
  • Reconnect with your friends, lovers and anyone else you might have neglected while you were working on your novel
  • If you're the type who neglects or abuses themselves during the creative process, this is a good time to see a doctor, therapist, personal trainer or nutritionist
  • Find out what happened in the world while you were away, as long as it has nothing to do with Miley Cyrus' dancing
  • Go read some books that you didn't write instead of proofreading your work over and over. It doesn't matter if you stick to your genre or not. Reading is different after your book comes out.
  • If it’s feasible, look for other avenues to exploit your intellectual property. It doesn't matter what medium and it doesn't matter how many sales you have. Not every book that crosses over has to be a best seller.
  • Get inspiration for your next book (See How Much Inspiration Do You Need?)
  • Look back at the process of releasing your last book. Figure out what went well and what could have been done better. Absorb what is useful, discard the rest as Bruce Lee used to say.
  • Write another book. If you did it once, you can do it again. There is no point in being a one hit wonder from a business or creative perspective.

Things Not to Do After Your Book Comes Out
  • Go on social media and ask people to buy your book every day
  • Agonize over the sales reports every hour
  • Compare yourself to other writer's sales numbers
  • Resent your friends for not supporting you enough
  • Beat yourself up because you don't have a bestseller
  • Ignore what you've learned from writing your book
  • Reject the entire industry out of frustration
  • Give up on your craft

The process of writing is cyclical. The triumph of releasing each book comes with the insecurity of a new blank page (See The Writer's Road). But the important thing for me is too keep writing. That's the only way I'll get better and the only way I'll increase my chances of success (See Defining the Successful Writer). The last novel is part of your past. To be a writer in the present and in the future, you need to keep writing. So go for it, right after that celebratory drink.

Have fun.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Delta of Venus: A Book Review

Anais Nin brought an artistic elegance to her erotica. Delta of Venus is a fantastic example of her craft. Written in the 1940's for an anonymous collector, the short stories explore various aspects of sexual expression with a delicate sensibility that does not shy away from darker impulses.

The characters in Delta exist in a hedonistic fantasy. Nin's Paris is full of writers, artists, models and whores. They have enough money to spend on drinks, drugs, parties, hotels, prostitutes and cafes, but none of them seems to have jobs that interfere with their passions. Monogamy isn't an expectation in marriage and a single glance across a bar is enough to spark an anonymous liaison in a closet. Everyone seems both comfortable with their own bodies and willing to explore someone else's. In the hands of a lesser writer, these stories might come out no better than the artificial letters in Penthouse Forum. In Delta of Venus, Nin creates a vision of Paris that is decadent, sensual and stylish.

If you're not a fan of stream of consciousness writing, this book might be hard to follow. Characters in stories will often tell stories of their own that can become confusing, especially if you're listening to the audio book. Nin also has a tendency to float away on tangents about Parisian women or German occupation before WW II that accentuate the setting but diffuse the erotic tension. None of this takes away from the quality of the writing, but it does take some getting used to.

Anais Nin is one of my favorite writers and Delta of Venus is one of her best books. If I could create an intimacy in my writing that comes anywhere close to this, my journey as a writer will be completely. Maybe I just need to move to Paris...

Have fun.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Marketing the Independent Novel: Lighting a Spark or Spitting in the Wind?

Marketing is one of the necessary evils of independent publishing. As a writer, I'd prefer to simply spend my days reading, writing, drinking, loving and sleeping. But if I don't tell people about my book, how can I get them to read it, even if it's free? At the same time, if I just run around begging people to buy my book, the only thing I'll accomplish is pissing people off.
I don't have a marketing background, but I am willing to share the marketing I did for Smooth Operator and what I've learned in the process. Hopefully this information will help you reach Fifty Shades sales numbers, even though I'm really far from that right now.

Please note that these tactics came from three books on the subject of independent marketing as well as my own meandering experience in my previous jobs; (Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, Crush It With Kindle and Secret Amazon Hacks)

The Five Principles of Independent Book Marketing
Based on what I've read, people buy books based on five factors. In general:
  1. They buy from authors they know and like
  2. They buy books they've heard about (often several times)
  3. They buy books that offer to do something for them
  4. They buy books that other people buy
  5. They buy books that are easy to buy

I tried to use these concepts to shape my marketing efforts. I broke the process down into five phases to maintain my sanity; social, preparation, announcement, pre-launch, launch and post launch.

Social is where I interact with the potential audience without talking about my book. The goal here is to establish yourself create rapport. I post essays about the business and craft of writing (like this one), book reviews and news articles about subjects related to my books. Hopefully this makes more people familiar with my name without a constant hard sell. At the same time, I've tried to create and increase friend’s lists on various sites and a mailing list that can be used to both keep in touch and spread the word about the book when the time comes. I did this stage for about nine months before the book launch.

In the Preparation phase, I try to set up the framework for the book marketing just prior to release. I found and sent ARC copies, determined the book's Amazon categories, and wrote the cover copy. I did all this about a month before the book launch.

The Announcement phase is two weeks before launch. This is when the cover image (See Judging a Book by its Cover) and promotion copy is posted (See the Smooth Operator Promo Post), the press release is written and mercenary mailing lists are recruited. The goal here is to let people know about the book, without pushing them to buy it. I imagine it works the same way as a movie trailer or a commercial for a new show.

In the Pre-Launch phase, I offer readers something in addition to the new book. I try to add incentives to the process, in the same way other companies offer extra features or gifts for people who buy first or take some other action. Since I didn't have money for an elaborate gift, I offered a prequel story called A Special Request to Smooth Operator to anyone willing to write a review.

When I was ready for the Launch phase, I created launch post on my blog (, sent out a blast on my email list and a social media blast to about 300,000 people (I didn't take bots, duplicates or dead profiles because I have no way to weed that out) during the five day promotional period that comes with Amazon's KDP program. My goal was to get as many downloads as possible in an attempt to raise my ranking on Amazon's sales list.

In the Post Launch phase, I try and let people know how other readers reacted to the book. Reviews from critics, sales figures and list announcements are all used to show that the book has merit in the marketplace. I also purchased three days of ad time on Facebook ads to target about 2.8 million readers in the US, UK, Canada and Mexico. I wanted to try this to see if FB advertising was more effective than a social media blast so I can compare the two methods for my next book.

The Results
Here is what all this marketing did for Smooth Operator during the first two weeks of release:

The Good News
  • There were 900 downloads in the US and more than 300 internationally. And 200 actual sales
  • Smooth Operator was reached #1 on the espionage new release list and #5 on the crime anthology list
  • The book got seven independent reviews with an average rating of 4.6 stars (See What the Critics are Saying about Smooth Operator)
  • Amazon used Smooth Operator as its featured new espionage release email early last week

The Bad News
  • The sales of Smooth Operator dropped 95% after the promotional period was over
  • Smooth Operator dropped off the espionage chart after the promo period and slipped down to #55 in the crime anthology list
  • The overall response rate from all marketing efforts came in at about .003%, or three downloads for every 1,000 people targeted.

Lessons Learned
The obvious takeaway from this exercise is that I am not a marketing genius. There are probably several steps I could have taken to improve my sales. I’m just not sure what those steps are at this point. Maybe I needed to reach three million people instead of three hundred thousand. Maybe I needed a Champion to lead people to Smooth Operator (See Champions, Tastemakers and True Fans). Maybe I shouldn't have squandered the Launch by offering the book for free. Maybe the long tail hasn't kicked in yet and I need to give it more time. I have seven novels planned after Smooth Operator. When it's time to market the new novel in January, I'll try to learn from this experience and create a better result.

What marketing tactics did you use? Were your results better, worse or the same? Leave a comment and let me know.

Have fun.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What the Critics Are Saying About Smooth Operator

I am pleased to report that the critical and public response to my first novel has been very positive so far.
  • Smooth Operator reached #1 on the Hot New Releases for Espionage (if only for a day) and remains in the top five at the time of this post.
  • The average rating for the book is 4.5 out of five stars (although I get the feeling that two of the reviewers never actually read the book- See Life, Death and Sock Puppets).
  • The reviews themselves are insightful and comprehensive (and I’m not just saying that because they are good reviews).
  • Several months ago I offered my perspective on dealing with a bad review. This time I’d just like to post the good review that I received from E.P. Scott and let that speak for itself.


This was an ARC given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Smooth Operator is a treasury of seven artfully written short stories, masterfully connected by a common thread: Warren Baker. The result is a thrilling, exotic novel packed with intrigue, action, deceit, sensuality and, in the words of the enigmatic Warren Baker - "relationships based on mutual exploitation."

Smooth Operator's first story (Of Mice and Men) is an interview, an introduction of sorts. The narrator in this first segment, a writer, is hoping to produce the next bestseller, and Warren Baker is his target for information, his muse of a fashion. As the conversation continues, Warren Baker begins the game, as he describes his methodology for acquiring his assets and operatives. Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Excitement (MICE)...Warren Baker's rules of engagement, so to speak. Find their motivator; dangle it in their face and the rest takes care of itself.

The next story (Asset Management), took me into the corporate offices of RSVP, a private intelligence firm. As Warren Baker takes his new boss, Rose Mendoza, who is just itching to fire him, along for the interviews that might result in the successful acquisition of a much sought after operative, I was plunged into the story of Ria Marlen; tormented, angry and ready to inflict her own variety of punishment on sexual predators. This dark, twisted story is exciting, quick, engaging and had a climactic ending that left me with a smile on my face and an `I sure didn't see that coming' as I closed out this second installment.

The third story (Family Affair) begins with a gang initiation that goes all wrong and ends with Harrison Trent, a freelance consultant with a unique skill set, ripping up New York's Lower East Side. A Family Affair is about manipulation, seduction, and exploitation, but it was also painfully gut wrenching, as I was swept along with Trent as he deals with his personal demons. The subject matter deals with gangs, misguided loyalty, what it means to be a family (blood or not) and the pain family can inflict (intentionally or not). The plot is fast but smooth; the characters are realistic, tough, resilient, and heartbreakingly lonely. The action is fantastic and the sex, highly erotic! And, for the second time, the ending is a head-shaking revelation that made me chuckle at the same time as I once again muttered to myself, "didn't see that coming...totally didn't see that coming". The writer effortlessly moves from one scene to the next, connecting the dots along the way, helping us learn as Trent and Baker learn. The planning of the insertion, execution and extraction were so believable, so captivating, I wouldn't be surprised if the author had personal experiences to draw from or, perhaps, has a military background. Harrison Trent is by far my favorite and Family Affair is my choice for best in show.

The fourth installment (Broken Glass) has a few interesting elements and plot twists: a corporate executive is passed over for a job, the slimy new boss is looking for his next piece of tail, a drunk woman is headed for serious trouble, and a man, driven by hatred and desire gets swept into the fallout by making the mistake of thinking that the events and people were mutually exclusive. At the end, just when you think it's the end, along comes another twist that was very well written. The underlying theme; it doesn't matter who gets screwed over, just as long as you get what you want.

As the rollercoaster comes out of the fourth loop-de-loop (Dead on Arrival) introduces us to Hamilton Chu; a resourceful, capable operative. Motivator: money. Unique Skill: "Executes" his missions with exact precision. A quick grab and deliver, that was all it was supposed to be and Chu would have some nice pocket change to spend on his boyfriend. He retrieves his target, delivers him, but in a twist of circumstances, the delivery isn't what anyone expected, especially Chu. He finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong. To delve further into this shorter of the group of stories would ruin it, but trust me when I say that Chu will impress you. The fight scenes were skillfully written and Warren Baker comes to his rescue, performs his magic and keeps his operative safe.

As a sidebar, at this point in the novel, I have to admit that I'm somewhat confused by my feelings towards the character of Warren Baker, as he tells his stories. I find my attraction for him reaching a level of tension that is pulling me in all directions. If he were real, he would be the type of man that an intelligent woman knows to stay away from and yet is unquestionably drawn to.

So, with that being said and my head spinning with all the intrigue and mystery I tried to catch my breath and slow my heartbeats to dull roar before plunging headlong into Ria Marlen's twisted world (Date with a Devil) only this time Warren Baker is meeting her face to face. This story was tense, contained close quarter's combat (of a fashion), a cat and mouse kind of introduction for the characters and a sensuality that had my heart thumping in my chest, again, and my imagination working overtime. Warren Baker is definitely a man that an intelligent woman should keep her distance from...*sigh*....anyhoo.

The seventh story (A Taste of Honey) is about Chris and Nikki. He's an operator and she's an asset. Theirs is a quirky relationship to say the least and Nikki's emotions may be blocking her common sense. Will she allow him to continue to exploit her, then make love to her and exploit her some more? This story and the novel, ends with one hell of a cliff-hanger that left me blinking at the screen wanting more.

In closing, Smooth Operator is an exploration of the lives of the operatives; present, future and questionable, of RSVP through the eyes of Warren Baker. The writing is superb, the plots and characters credible, the action and thrill intense and the sex and sensuality highly erotic without being pornographic. As I wrote my review, checked the stories to make sure my facts were straight, I found that each one sucked me back in for a pleasurable, second read. If a book is written in such a fashion that the stories become that engaging; to make me want to read it again, it automatically gets 5-stars. And truth be told? I'll probably read this novel a few more times.

Thank you, to the author, for giving me a glimpse into the intriguing lives of these wonderful characters.
Smooth Operator isn't a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination (See Great Expectations) but it is off to a good start. I only hope other readers feel as good about the book as Ms. Scott.

Have fun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Smooth Operator Is Now Available for Free on Amazon.com!

August 7, 2013,
New York

Nightlife Publishing has released a new anthology called Smooth Operator: The Life and Crimes of Warren Baker (ISBN-0615853579). It is a criminal espionage novel that explores human motivations and how those motivations shape our identity.

The stories in this collection follow a professional spy named Warren Baker as he attempts to manipulate the parade of criminals that cross his path in New York, Miami and Argentina. Playing on the anger, envy, greed and lust of his targets, Baker strives to fight against an army of criminal cartels invading America. If he succeeds, he'll be in a perfect position to stop them. If he fails, he'll wind up dead in the trunk of an abandoned car. Advanced reviews have described Smooth Operator as "a thrilling, exotic novel packed with intrigue, action, deceit and sensuality."

Gamal Hennessy, the president of Nightlife Publishing and author of Smooth Operator, sees the book as a blend of both the crime thriller and the spy novel. "I tried to create a style of story inspired by the best of both genres. Combining the cool professionalism of the spy mixed with the primal motivations of the criminal appeals to readers who are looking for a different type of spy story."

Smooth Operator will be part of the Kindle Direct Press program. The e-book will be free from Wednesday August 7th to Sunday, August 11. The retail price of the e-book will be $2.99. The paperback version has a retail price of $9.99.

As a bonus, Nightlife Publishing will offer a free prequel short story called A Special Request, to anyone who posts a review for Smooth Operator on Amazon. The retail price of the prequel is $.99 and will be provided regardless of the contents of the review.

For more information, please visit http://gamalhennessy.com

About Gamal Hennessy
Gamal Hennessy is an author, entertainment attorney and nightlife advocate in New York City. He is the author of fiction including Afraid of the Dark and Smooth Operator, the non-fiction title Seize the Night and he is also the President of Nightlife Publishing.

SOURCE Nightlife Publishing

Have fun.
Gamal Hennessy